They are your neighbors. They are your friends. Maybe they are even your family. You talk with them often, and have even had them over for dinner on occasion. Perhaps your children play in the same playground or spend time in the same social group. Although you have noticed some quirks and idiosyncrasies, you would never know the difference, and you would never expect the worst. After something bad happens that draws your attention to them, you have been forced to accept the truth: someone you know has Antisocial Personality Disorder.
Antisocial Personality Disorder is a personality disorder recognized within the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. This disorder is a lifelong infliction that affects more men than women. An approximate six percent of men and one percent of women in the United States population are considered “sociopaths” or “psychopaths” (Wood). In order to be diagnosed with this disorder, the individual must be at least eighteen years old, but the antisocial behaviors must have occurred in the individual by age fifteen. According to Dr. Luchiano Picchio, an individual diagnosed with this disorder is marked by an “inability to social norms involving many aspects of the patient’s life” (Picchio). As listed within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual version Four (DSM-IV) (2000), the diagnostic criteria for Antisocial Personality Disorder are:
(1) failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest; (2) deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure; (3) impulsivity or failure to plan ahead; (4) irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults; (5) reckless disregard for safety of self or others; (6) consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations; and (7) lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another (American Psychiatric Association APA, 2000, p. 701).
The typical psychopath hits his prime in his twenties, and eventually lessens his socially unacceptable acts by his forties (Black, 2000). He will probably come across as charming, and will almost certainly make relationships. However, “to them, these are relationships in name only. They are ended whenever necessary or when it suits them, and the relationships are without depth or meaning, including marriages” (Wood). Psychopaths have an innate ability to seek out and discover weaknesses in people, and make it a personal goal to target those weaknesses. They tend to carry a very low level of anxiety, and are rarely stressed. They are unlikely to hold a job for any length of time, as they begin to question the ways of their employers and they become uninterested in the tasks assigned to them. Their impulsivity keeps them from planning long-term, which results in a high occurrence of debt-fault (Wood.)
While there have been no outwardly successful treatments for Antisocial Personality Disorder, many of the disorders’ individuals never seek treatment alone, as they see no reason to conform to the rules of society with which they find no satisfaction. Instead, the individual will be prompted by his family or friends, or will be forced by a court system to seek treatment, and then will usually comply, and will consent to treatment. Much of the recent treatment for Antisocial Personality Disorder has been behavioral, and has not been based around biological or medicinal findings.
One type of therapy used is psychotherapy, which “should focus on helping the individual understand the nature and consequences of his disorder so he can be helped to control his behavior” (Black, 2000). Another type of therapy used is cognitive therapy, which involves the patient’s efforts as much as it does the therapist’s efforts. According to Dr. Donald Black, “The cognitive therapy’s major goal is to help the patient understand how he creates his own problems and how his distorted perceptions prevent him from seeing himself the way others view him” (2000).
Although medications are not typically used to treat Antisocial Personality Disorder, some various medicines have been tested and experimented. One of these medicines is lithium carbonate, which “has been found to reduce anger, threatening behavior and combativeness” (Black 2000). Another kind of medicine tried is Dilantin, which has been used to reduce aggressiveness within prisons. Some other kinds of medicine tried in treating Antisocial Personality Disorder include antipsychotic medications, which also deter aggression, but carry irreversible side effects. While the total effects of Antisocial Personality Disorder cannot be treated by medication, its smaller components, such as depression and anxiety disorders, can be treated successfully (Black 2000).
Antisocial Personality Disorder is a serious disorder experienced by many men and women every day. Although those inflicted by the disorder can lead normal lives and usually do, they can be considered dangerous, and those spending time around them should pay close attention to both their own safety and the safety of the sociopath. After all, as William and Joan McCord stated in The Psychopath, “Psychopathy, possibly more than other mental disorders, threatens the safety, the serenity, and the security of American life” (Olsen 1984, p. 191).
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Washington D.C.:
Black, D. (2000, November 25). What is antisocial personality disorder? Psych Central.
Retrieved April 21, 2004, from http://psychcentral.com/library/asp_general.html
Olsen, J. (1984). Son. New York: Atheneum.
Picchio, L. (n.d.) Antisocial personality disorder. Dauphin County RADAR. Retrieved April 14,
2004, from http://dcradar.org/doctors/picchio_0501.html
Wood, D. (n.d.) What is antisocial personality disorder? Mental Health Matters. Retrieved April
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